The origins of the way of the cross (Q&A 85)


by Ram Ritho

Q&A 85

Q. Hi!
A. Wsup!

Q. A friend of mine I forward your posts to asked me to ask you where this practice of the Way of the Cross started from.
A. Well first of all, so that we are on the same page, by “The Way of the Cross” you’re referring to that devotion where Christians pray and re-live the Passion of the Christ using pictures or representations of certain scenes from that journey of Christ to Calvary.

Q. Exactly! That one where the pictures or carvings are usually hung around the walls of a Church…
A. Yup. Ok. So basically this devotion is what has been handed down to us since the days when Christians out of devotion would travel to Holy Land not just to visit and see the sites associated with our Lord’s life, but in a special way to pray and meditate on the different scenes of the life of our Lord associated with those places.

Among these pilgrim Christians who managed the trip, the sites associated with Christ’s suffering and death on the Cross held pride of place if only because those last 12 hours of Jesus life were like a climax to His life and mission on earth. These sites were consequently more frequented by Christian pilgrims.

However, considering the difficulties and dangers of transport in those early centuries, not all the faithful who so desired could make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem once, much less more than once. There consequently begun the custom where faithful Christians would construct in their own towns and villages some replica of those holy sites in Jerusalem. Some people went as far as trying to duplicate exact distances between the various sites; others, due to lack of space focused more on smaller replicas and representations. And by walking through these representations, the Christians were able to somewhat re-live “the passion of the Christ”. These representations are the origin of our Way of the Cross today.

Q. Wow!
A. The devotion though has gone through modifications over the centuries for example there have not always been 14 stations in the Way of the Cross; some had up to 21. And even among those 21, not all of our present day 14 were there.

Q. In my parish this devotion is really popular during this time of Lent.
A. Really!? Mine too! Ours the church is as packed as a typical Sunday Mass.

Q. Same thing!
A. Hope you also attend…

Q. Every Friday!
A. Good stuff!

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